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hvg.hu

The Socialist Party conference has the task of assembling an electoral list and nominating a prime ministerial candidate. The event is a pure formality, since the Socialists have no choice other than Ferenc Gyurcsány.

Without Mr Gyurcsány, the Socialists would be as weak as they were in the last month's of Péter Medgyessy's government. The PM is the motor behind the party's campaign. If he performs well, the party does well do. If he stumbles, the party will have almost no chance of winning the elections. In 2002, the then government's ministers campaigned for Fidesz, and Viktor Orbán only entered the campaign at the end of the campaign. Mr Gyurcsány's cabinet is doing things differently. The Socialist ministers are scarcely to be seen. Some of them have become almost invisible.

Mr Gyurcsány is everything. This week, he will receive Tony Blair on his visit to the country and to the party congress. As head of the party's electoral committee he will be speaking at rallies, while at the same time offering insider information to his blog's youthful audience.

Next to the PM's one man show, the official Socialists' official campaign looks like a quiet murmuring in the background. Beside the PM, there is nobody to offer an authentic message. Following the fiasco of the presidential elections last year, István Hiller seems to have been hidden from the public. If he does appear, it is at press conferences and party events, where it becomes clear why he is being hidden. When he is not being forced to discuss a scandal, as on Monday when he announced that Fidesz was behind hacker attacks on the party's servers, his speeches lack any content or originality. In parliament, he just follows the PM.

The party itself shows an ageing face to the world. It is only finding its voice when addressing people with an interest in modernisation, primarily the young, and outside the cities, the party is seen as too 'metropolitan'.

In only 18 months, Mr Gyurcsány seems to have done to the left what Mr Orbán did on the conservative wing between 1998 and 2002. The difference is that the Socialist PM did not set about building a loose alliance into a coherent camp. His task was to turn a party led by apparatchiks into a professional organisation. As the elections approach, it becomes clear that Mr Gyurcsány turned his weakness - that he was an outsider without a supporter base within the party - into an advantage. The party's electoral list bears Mr Gyurcsány's imprint. But the PM is still dependent: he could not neglect the old guard, whom he needs to motivate the Socialists' traditional supporters.

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Outperforming

Shareholders in the FHB Land and Mortgage Bank were content until last week to watch their investment grow three and a half times over two years, outperforming not only the stock market index but OTP too.

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2006: Bartók Year

More tourists stayed the night in Hungary than ever before last year, with hotels earning record sums. But the overall situation remains poor.

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After 2010

A recent statement by Viktor Orbán suggests a victorious Fidesz would probably abandon the present government's goal of introducing the euro by 2010.

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Alarmingly high percentages?

Provident is offering instant loans at extraordinary prices, it would appear. The full cost of the loan is indicated using an annual percentage rate. It may mislead the naive, but it is not incorrect.

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